President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress on 12th February gives me new hope for America’s economic prospects. The fact that a president who is so thoroughly misinformed and misguided has not been able to totally wreck our economy is evidence of the resilience of America’s institutions and of the entrepreneurial spirit of its citizens. This does not mean that I expect our current robust one percent economic growth will continue; on the contrary, I expect a colossal recession in the next few years as a result of the disastrous policies being pursued by the Obama Administration and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
The President spent more time talking about energy and climate than any other issues. He noted that greenhouse gas emissions (which he called “dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet”) have declined in the past four years, but did not mention that economic stagnation is one of the major causes. Nor did he mention that global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase rapidly because of robust economic growth in China and other industrializing countries.
He went on to say: “But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”
These claims are contrary to the scientific literature. There has been no increase over the twentieth century average in the incidence or intensity of heat waves, droughts or floods. Sandy was a big storm, but far less powerful than many hurricanes that have hit New York City in the past century. There have been some big wildfires in the West due to criminal mismanagement of the National Forests and other federal lands. And as Roger Pielke, Jr. (who is not a global warming skeptic) has demonstrated from the data, Atlantic hurricanes are currently in a low phase.
But the President is making these claims because this year the global warming alarmists have decided to make “wacky weather” their featured catastrophe. Any severe weather event is now being pushed by the alarmists as caused by global warming. Since the global mean temperature has not increased noticeably in the past fifteen years, their claims are a notable instance of effects preceding cause.
In terms of policy prescriptions, the President called on Congress to “pursue a bi-partisan, market-based solution to climate change like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.” Since cap-and-trade legislation is dead for the foreseeable future, the President went on to add, “But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take….” It is not clear what further actions he has in mind beyond all the new EPA regulations designed to kill coal that are already in the pipeline. Federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing is perhaps a likely new initiative.
The President then sketched out several specific anti-energy proposals. Full speed ahead on subsidizing windmills and solar panels. Divert an unspecified amount of federal oil and gas royalties to a new Energy Security Trust to fund more boondoggles in the miracle fuels and electric vehicle sector. And make an expensive new push for higher energy efficiency in buildings.
President Obama also provided some humor when he said, “That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.” His delivery was so deadpan that the Members of Congress in the House Chamber who were listening (and some of them probably were) didn’t laugh out loud. But I’m sure anyone trying to drill on federal lands and offshore areas who was watching the teevee broadcast guffawed heartily.